A coordinated effort by officials to persecute transgender people appears to be underway in Bangalore, India, according to a recent account from activists.
Human Rights Watch says that five hijras, or male-to-female transgender people, were arrested for “extortion” on Oct 20 in the city known as the Silicon Valley of India. That same day, reports said authorities had announced a new campaign against the city’s “eunuch menace.”
The hijras were taken to a police station and abused. When a team of local activists arrived to help them, they were also abused and charged, sparking a wave of arrests, harassment and verbal abuse of activists who subsequently arrived to help. In all, activists report at least 45 people were detained before everyone, including the hijras, was released on bail on Oct 22.
During the ordeal, activists say, two of the police officers told them they had orders from senior officials to round up hijras and book them under the inflated charge of extortion.
Hijras occupy a vulnerable place in Indian society, often lacking identity documentation because their gender identity does not match their sex at birth. Without the citizenship rights to give them access to education and employment, many live on the margins and resort to begging and prostitution. Some 2,000 hijras live in Bangalore, part of India’s total hijra population of 50,000.